Mike Dillon: Race fixing in this country is very hard to prove

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Everyone's asking, "How are we going to stop race fixing, currently under investigation in Australia, from creeping into New Zealand?".

What makes anyone think it's not happening here.

Don't be fooled by the fact our record books in the last couple of decades show no instances of jockeys being charged with not running a horse on its merits (the wording of the New Zealand rule).

That's because it is the most difficult rule in the Rules Of Racing to police.

The level of proof required to successfully win a case against a jockey who has allegedly pulled a horse up is almost too great.

The penalty for such a charge at the top end is a fine of $50,000 and/or a period of disqualification, which can include life.

Stewards looking to bring that down on a jockey, understandably, need to be damn sure they've read the race right.

There is no room for error.

Proving, to that level, a jockey wasn't trying on a horse simply from an electronic image of a race is close enough to impossible. You can suspect it, even strongly, but that level of proof falls short.

Almost all cases where jockeys have been found guilty of race fixing in Australia in the last three or four decades have been backed by evidence from bookmakers' betting sheets, which have been an enormous help in guiding stewards.

New Zealand, of course, does not have bookmakers, which makes it doubly difficult here.

Which is probably why we also have a lesser rule of "not taking all reasonable measures to allow a horse to obtain the best finishing position".

Bookmakers are becoming fewer by the week in Australia, further weakening the position of stewards in obtaining evidence.

None of this is to suggest there is widespread "pulling up" of horses in New Zealand, but you would be naive to think it hasn't happened.

The recent allegations of race fixing in an event at Victoria's provincial Cranbourne track early last year involve one very high-profile jockey, three successful jockeys and one lesser light.

It took a murder inquiry to come up with the Cranbourne allegations.

The Perna inquiry was instigated by repeated claims that race fixing was widespread and an allegedly rigged race run at Cranbourne in April 2011 had a link to an unsolved murder case.

Victoria detectives uncovered the evidence while making inquiries into the St Kilda street murder last year of racing identity Les Samba.

Samba was once the father-in-law of controversial jockey Danny Nikolic, who has been mentioned in the latest inquiries.

This week Victorian Racing Minister Denis Napthine said Racing Victoria "dropped the ball" two years ago when investigating Nikolic's involvement with professional punters.

Nikolic denies any involvement with race fixing.

On Thursday investigators monitoring on-line betting services produced evidence of a Sydney punting ring which regularly backs a Melbourne jockey to lose.

The CEO of the state government authority that oversees racing, Rob Hines, said the inquiry would aim at providing Racing Victoria stewards with the necessary information to allow them to open their own inquiry.

"The police have information, but they are legally prevented from sharing all of it with us," Hines said.

"So we are hopeful evidence will come forward from this inquiry that will give us the basis to conduct our own investigation."

One of Victoria's most successful racing trainers, Mick Price, told AAP he welcomed the inquiry as an "act of good faith" in an industry he says is better governed than most.

"This is a great industry for hard-working, decent people," he said.

"I hope the people who are making these race-fixing claims now take the opportunity to put up or shut up."

- NZ Herald

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